at KANSAS CITY ROYALS
First pitch: Sunday, 8:00 p.m. ET
The Cleveland Indians look to inch back into the race for the final Wild Card spot in the American League as the Royals try to continue a bid at winning the AL Central division for the first time since 1985.
Cleveland has not really been able to find their groove this year and still sit four games out of the final Wild Card spot coming into this series. They have been turning it around of late, though, with victories in eight of their last 12 contests while winning or tying each of their last six series. To start the week, they defeated the White Sox over a three-game set, capping it off with a 3-2 win in Thursday’s rubber-match. OF Michael Bourn (.272) was a huge asset in the game, going 3-for-5 with two triples and a run while coming into Friday with a five game hitting streak in which he is 9-for-22 (.409) with three extra-base hits, two RBI and three runs. Kansas City has taken the league by storm and with a record of 26-9 (.743) since July 22nd, have grabbed a 1.5-game lead over the Tigers coming into the series. They were able to take 2-of-3 against the Twins earlier this week, allowing just two runs over the first couple of games, but failed to get the sweep after a big 11-5 loss in 10 innings on Thursday. OF Alex Gordon (.282) did have a homer in the contest and has four long balls in his last eight games. Two young guns will be on the bump for this matchup as 24-year old LHP T.J. House (2-3, 4.18 ERA) goes head-to-head with 25-year old LHP Danny Duffy (8-11, 2.47 ERA) of the host Royals. The road has not been kind to the Indians as they are a woeful 29-39 (.426) after Thursday while Kansas City is a solid 35-30 (.538) in front of their fans. Overall in the past three seasons, the Royals hold a 26-24 edge against their division rivals and have pulled out five victories in six tries against them at home this year. Amazingly, 32 of their 47 games in the past three years have gone over the total; including 8-of-13 in 2014. In their last series, the teams combined for 11 homers in four contests as Kansas City won three times.
T.J. House has been a solid option for the big league club this year as they search for consistent starters. He has never been a top prospect in the minors, but has always showed consistency. In his 14 games (13 starts) with the Indians, House has been unlucky with batters hitting .344 BABIP as he has allowed 1.01 homers per nine innings. His 6.7 K/9 are decent, but he can by no means be considered a strikeout pitcher. Cleveland is 7-3 in House’s last 10 starts, but he has been able to go six plus innings just three times over those outings. He wasn’t able to get out of the fifth inning against the White Sox in his last start (August 26th) as he gave up five runs on seven hits while striking out four batters (1 walk). He earned a win against the Royals in his only time facing them while allowing three runs on nine hits with three strikeouts (0 walks). DH Billy Butler is the only player on Kansas City who has multiple hits against House (2-for-3) while OF Lorenzo Cain is the only person with an extra-base hit (1-for-3, 1 double). Meanwhile, SS Alcides Escobar was 0-for-3 in the matchup with a strikeout. Cleveland’s bullpen has been phenomenal and is 30-17 (.638) with a 2.79 ERA (1.18 WHIP) while successfully converting 32-of-48 (67%) saves coming into this series. Cody Allen (1.71 ERA, 18 saves) has been phenomenal in the closers role and has struck out 12.0 batters per nine innings while going 18-for-19 (95%) in his save chances.
Danny Duffy is finally living up to his potential and ranks third in the AL with his 2.47 ERA while putting up a tremendous 1.07 WHIP (6th in AL). The youngster has lost some of his strikeout ability (6.8 K/9 in 2014) as he attempts to harness his control but has seen his walk rate (3.1 BB/9) drop more than two walks per nine since last year. He has been very lucky, though, as batters are hitting an extremely low .231 BABIP on the season, but he has given up a mere 10 homers in 134.2 innings (0.67 HR/9). The Royals have come away victors in six of Duffy’s last seven starts as he has given up one or fewer runs in five of those games. He’s faced the Indians five times (4 starts) in his career while going 1-1 with a 3.55 ERA (1.38 WHIP) and has had 28 strikeouts in 25.1 IP. OF Michael Brantley (4-for-10, 1 RBI) and 1B Carlos Santana (5-for-13, 1 HR, 2 RBI) have seen the ball well out of Duffy’s hands while 3B Lonnie Chisenhall and OF David Murphy are hitless between them in eight at-bats with four strikeouts. Coming into this series, the Royals’ ‘pen is 24-13 (.649) with a 3.50 ERA (1.27 WHIP) and are an amazing 42-for-51 (82%) in saves. They have not done as well at home, though, with a bloated 4.33 ERA (1.38 WHIP). Greg Holland (1.72 ERA, 40 saves) is one of the elite closers in baseball and has blown a meager two saves on the year while striking out 12.6 batters per nine innings.